Ryan and I were excited to return to the eastern side of KY, to coal country, to ride the Black Mountain Madness Ride to the Summit. It starts and finishes in the town of Cumberland, KY. We were bummed we couldn't get any of our close friends to commit to it, but after having such a great time last year, we decided we had to go back. Plus, with the date change of Ironman Louisville for 2015 from August to October, if I am going to really do it, I won't have the opportunity to do this ride (or ride to the summit anyway) next year because of the dates being too close together. New for this year was the option to ride down the Virgina side and come back up. I was going to stick with the same route as last year. Ryan was on the fence.
We made a hotel reservation at the Benham Schoolhouse Inn, which is where we stayed last year. It is in the town just east of Cumberland and was a school that was a coal camp public school, and my parents were able to come down and watch the kids.
Last year, this ride was one of the hardest rides that I have ever done. As a result, I vowed to be better prepared this time around, both from having my bike in better working order and by doing more mileage. With both kids at the same school, this boded well for my training, plus I am training for the Columbus Marathon with lots and lots of running fitness. My theory was that I only had to be able to do 58 miles, rather than 70, since the ride back down would be mostly coasting with a little pedaling on the last 5-6 miles through Lynch and Benham into Cumberland. I did two 44 mile rides from my house on the Ironman loop out to Sligo, once with Elise and Forrest, and once on my own, with the second time breaking 18mph. I also did a ride in the "knobs" of Indiana with Elise, Forrest, and Ron. This ride had two huge climbs that weren't nearly as long as Black Mountain, but were still big long climbs. I replaced a bad shifter on my rear derailleur that caused major issues on my MMM Beat the Heat Ride, so I had my shifting in good order. Much better than last year. I did have a little scare after the knobs ride, when I unpacked my bike and heard a "boing" noise the Tuesday before the ride. It was a broken spoke! Ack! I ride 650cc wheels, so I was really freaking out over it being fixed in time. Thankfully, the guys and gals at VO2 Multisport were able to come through and fix my wheel on Thursday so I could be good to go.
On Friday morning, I got packed up, bringing about everything I owned. The weather had really cooled down, and I wasn't sure what I wanted to wear. Ryan took a half day so that we could drive to Cumberland and get registered the night before. It is about 4 hours from our house, and we got on the road just in time to arrive a few minutes before 5pm, when the registration closed for the day. After picking up our packets, we headed over to the School House to get checked in. We had a much nicer room this year. It still had the hardwood floors and had a huge window that looked out to the back of the building, towards the mountain. For the most part, the hotel looked the same as it did last year, however, the reading room looked like it was turned into and office, and was locked with one of the bookcases in the hallway instead of the room. Our room (below)
Benham Tigers Spirit
We drove up Pine Mountain, on our way to dinner in Whitesburg, KY. It is really beautiful. We stopped at a couple overlooks for some pictures.
We enjoyed our dinner at the Pine Mountain Grill. We ate here last year. I told Ryan how last year I was so nervous! We had a maple blondie for dessert that was excellent. Normally I wouldn't get a big dessert before a big event, but it worked last year so we got it again this year. Then it was back to the hotel and off to bed.
Saturday morning arrived, and it was in the low 40s. I decided that I would wear my thick under armor top under my Coeur Sports Chevron Jersey and my under armor tights over my Coeur Sports little black tri shorts. I wore socks with my shoes, my headband, and I had my full mountain bike gloves, but not my really heavy gloves. We had a little delay at the start because there was a group that arrived late, and it was then that I realized that lots of people had booties on, and Ryan had on toe covers. I was really torn if I should put my booties on. I had never worn them with tri shoes before, so I wasn't sure if they would work with the cleats or not, and with such short time, I just figured I would stay how I was. I also had my heavy winter mountain bike gloves in the car as well, thinking I would be ok with what I had. Here are a couple pictures from the start:
On the ride out to Loyall, my hands were cold for a long time, as well as my feet. I was really wishing I had my heavier gloves and booties. I stayed with Ryan for a little bit, but he asked to go ahead and that was fine. It is rolling downhill towards Loyall, and I rode with a few different people, but mostly on my own. The SAG stop was moved to a church this year, and it was nice to be able to go inside and warm up. Everyone there was so nice and happy to see us. I had packed four sleeves of Clif shot blocks and three bonk breakers with me. I had a half a sleeve of blocks and one bonk breaker bar at the stop, refilled my water, and chatted with a group of guys that remembered me from last year, with my bike problems on the climb. Once I was warmed up, I headed back to Cumberland. I was mostly by myself on the way back. It was a really pretty ride back. Since I was on my own I was able to focus more on the turning leaves than on the bikes around me. I stopped briefly at the SAG stop at mile 35 to refill water and ate a few more cubes. I was pleased because I was right around two hours for the ride so far. Its funny because being at the halfway point of the ride didn't really feel like the halfway point, since the climb to the summit is so long. I made it to Cumberland and it was really windy at the stop. I refilled my water again, and had one more bonk breaker, and more cubes. A few people opted to ride back to their cars before stopping, and I was really wondering if I should switch up my clothing. I was comfortable on the ride towards Cumberland because I was working hard enough to be warm. I knew it would be cold on the top of the mountain, but I also knew I would be riding very hard to get there. I took a few pictures with the bears at the stop, plus I love fall, so I had to sit with the pumpkins! The quilted bear had been repainted I think from last year. At this point, I had gone 47 miles.
Then I was on my way, but got stopped at a traffic light, so I took a couple pictures with this bear. I had remembered the handprints on it from last year and didn't get a picture. Since I was stopped already, I figured I might as well get a few pictures.
At this point, it became a pretty gradual uphill as I went through Benham and towards Lynch. I stopped quickly at the Lamp House coffee shop quickly to mentally prepare for the climb ahead. It would be about 6 miles to the top. I thanked the staff their for their help and said I couldn't get a hot chocolate now, because milk before the big climb would be bad, but I thought it would be a great idea on the way back down. Then I was off. I saw a couple other people out there but was by myself for the majority of the climb. It was really pretty going up, but I really really didn't want to stop this time around. Last year, I pretty much had to because I couldn't get my bike to stay in my 28 on the rear, but this year, the bike was in the proper gear and it was just a matter of gutting it out. I kept looking at my garmin, and as usual, I was tired enough that basic math was challenging. I'm not sure why I thought 47 plus 12 equaled 58, other than the fact that last year I was at 58miles at the top, but I got to mile 58 and was not done. I was going faster this time than last year. It felt like it took me an hour to get to the top last time, because every time I looked at my watch, I was going only around 6 miles an hour. This year, I was in the 6-8mph range. I was going at a rate that I would typically go if I was running on flat ground, so I tried to make the time pass the same way it would as if I was struggling to run up the hill on the bypass by my house. It seemed to work, and I was so excited to get to the top. Ryan was up there waiting for me. He had opted to stick with the same route as last year. Here are a few pictures. Some are mine and some were taken from the Black Mountain Madness facebook page. This is Ryan at the summit.
Here I am finally at the top!
Tim rode over the other side of the mountain and back up. Here he is on the way back up from the VA side.
Ryan and I with Tim and Bryan from Team Louisville
We didn't stay long at the top, because it was cold up there. The ride down was so cold. I was not ready for that. It was much harder than I expected. I really wished that I had worn my booties and heavier gloves at this point. I think I could have dealt with hot hands and feet better than I dealt with freezing hand and feet. Ryan passed me on the way down, and by the time Tim passed me, I was totally freezing, and told him I was topping for hot chocolate for sure. I was in the wrong gear to try to spin down the hill, so I was mostly coasting until I got back to the Lamp House Coffee. That was the best hot chocolate ever! I really was good because it was made with Ghirardelli chocolate and steamed milk. Plus it helped me regain feeling in my hands. Once I finished it and left, I was able to stay warm because I was moving more to finish up the last few miles into town. I rode in with three others, and had to do an extra tenth of a mile past the library to get to 71.0 miles. I couldn't stop at 70.9.
We had a warm pasta and pizza lunch waiting for us, plus POP, and homemade fudge. Its funny how grateful I am for a Coke or Dr. Pepper after a long ride. We each got a medal for finishing the ride, and that is probably one of my hardest earned medals. We chatted with other riders we met from Team Louisville before getting changed and loaded back up for our ride home. It felt great to get into comfy clothes. However, before we got on the road, we stopped into the Coal Museum to buy a Christmas Ornament. We didn't have time to tour the museum, but it would be fun to come back to do this tour as well as the Portal 31, which is a tour of a coal mine.
Overall, this was another excellent experience. I felt a lot better prepared, with the exception of my hands and feet being cold. I now know that if Ryan has on toe covers, I should be wearing booties. Also, if in doubt, wear warmer gloves. Thinner gloves are small and I should have just tucked them in a pocket and started in the warmer gloves so I could have the option to swap them on the fly. Since its a small ride, I had planned to bring my own bars and cubes, and rely on the stops for water, which was fine. Lately, my rides have been pretty unsupported, going as far as 40 miles without stopping at a store for more water, so I figured I would just go with what I knew worked. It was a good plan. I probably would have been fine with the PB&J sandwiches at the stop, because I love those too for riding. I also appreciated the amateur radio operators that volunteered to keep a good track of us on the ride. Since its a small ride, they kept track of us individually. I love that even though it is a small ride, it still happens. I hope that this ride continues to grow, but I do like the small intimate setting of it.